Cherry Popping ADV Riders: Cris-crossing NW Montana

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by ScotsFire, Oct 26, 2016.

  1. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

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    In July 2016, my buddy Brett and I decided to take a week and ride from Spokane to Glacier NP, then sail on Flathead Lake for three days, before riding back home. <Spoiler Alert! It didn't end up that way>

    We planned eight days from Saturday July 16 to Saturday July 23. We only had a general plan with two real objectives:
    1. Brett had never been to Glacier, so the Going to the Sun Road was a must.
    2. I had never sailed, so Brett was going to teach me. Yes, yes, Montana is exactly where everyone thinks of when wanting to learn to sail.
    Objective 3, actually the most important, was that we would go at whatever pace and do whatever things we felt like. The phrase that pays was "We're on Vacation!"

    We had a trip to the Puget Sound planned in 2015 to sail and ride through the Cascades. But a bunch of other folks bailed and this itinerary to Flathead was our back up plan. Then fire season happened, and I was unable to take time that year. We firmly committed to make this trip happen in 2016, and this time in July was the first week we could both fit into our schedules.

    Brett had ridden most of his life, and I had only returned to riding in 2015, but neither of us had ever camped from the back of our bikes. We both have KLR650's, mine a 2002 and Brett's a 2003. We had sexy written all over us.

    Now, I have hesitated to actually do this as a RR for a while due to a couple of what I see as issues. Firstly, I personally like the "up to the minute" ride reports. These that are after the fact are often very good, but don't have the spontaneous feel that I really love about current reports. Secondly, I'd have figured that what we did and where we went was nothing too uncommon. But I haven't seen any reports (in my limited searching) covering some of the spots we hit. Lastly, it's been a while and I would have rather done this when it was fresher, but I hadn't discovered this wonderful site at that time. So for better or worse, I'll inflict my thoughts and some pictures upon those that wish to come along.
    #1
  2. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

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    Planning for this adventure was rather ad hoc, due mostly to the fact that neither of us had ever done anything quite like this. Brett had done many rides in the past, but would truck or trailer bikes to somewhere and ride around from a base camp for a couple of days before moving on. For this trip, we wanted to be self-sufficient off the bikes. We planned our loads pretty much independently, with the direction that Brett would bring most of the tools if I brought the kitchen and food. While this distribution of responsibilities did help considerably, we both ended up tremendously over-packing. As well, neither one of us really had any good kit for this type of traveling prior to making the decision to commit to the time. We both had camping gear, but not really anything motorcycle and/or hiking designed.

    Our loads carried by small soft panniers, tank bags, and duffels. I also strapped a semi-rigid cooler to the back of my load. This ended up creating several issues for me as you'll see. But we did always have cold food, water, and beer.
    #2
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  3. Zubb

    Zubb he went that-a-way...

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    bring it on brother.... I'm listening.
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  4. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

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    Day 1: July 16, Spokane WA to Eureka MT
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    We met Saturday morning at Frank's diner in north Spokane for breakfast before hitting the road. Franks is always good food and filling. I was late as I hadn't fully packed the night before and found that the duffel I had planned on using wasn't big enough. Instead of taking this as a sign of bringing too mush stuff (as I should have), I found a bigger bag. Brett had spent enough time (and three cups of coffee) waiting for me, that he had the waitress giving me a hard time when I showed up.
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    The bikes outside of Franks Diner. More "Beverly Hillbillies" than I would have liked, but hey! We're on Vacation!

    We rode "East" on US2, more north than east for the most part, out of Spokane through Newport and Sandpoint. One nice thing about North Idaho is that most of the fuel stations have ethanol free gasoline. Not that a KLR is very finicky, but it does help a little with power and fuel economy. It started raining as we got into Sandpoint and continued all the way into Bonner's Ferry. After riding for a while getting wet, hoping that the clouds would part as they usually do that time of year, we finally pulled over into a parking lot of a feed store to put on our riding gear, telling each other that we'd stop when we finally got to BF. This was of course right around the next bend. We took a long lunch at the Badger's Den, hoping the rain would move on by.

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    Keeping an eye on the bikes from inside the Badger's Den café.

    I bought the world's greatest coffee cup at the restaurant. At least that's what the cute barista called it. They sold espresso/coffee from a local roaster, and I figured I'd get a cup to bring a latte with. FYI, cup holders are not a stock option on a KLR. I jury rigged a boating cup holder to several places on my handle bars and windshield over the next three days trying to find a good place that the cup wouldn't either jump out, or splash me and/or the bike with copious amounts of coffee.

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    Cup-holder install Mk 1
    #4
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  5. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

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    Day 1 (continued)

    After a good lunch, we re-donned our wet weather gear as the clouds hadn't really cleared at all, though the rain had lessened. Drove north through Bonner's Ferry and hung the right towards Montana. Pulled over within five miles as by that time, the clouds had cleared and it was already too warm for the rain gear.

    Rode a bit past our second state line for the day, still on US2, and dropped down into the valley of the Kootenai River. Right as the highway gets done meandering along the side of the hill, there is a campground and day use area near the confluence with the Yaak River. We pulled in and enjoyed the view and a cool beverage.

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    We spent over an hour relaxing and enjoying the view and the quiet. There were some other folks there; some fly fishermen on a boat and a couple having a picnic down stream. The lady of the couple ended up mooning us as she squatted in the trees. We were a little puzzled, as we weren't exactly hiding. But when in Montana I guess.

    A little ways further down the highway was Libby Montana.
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    They have numerous sculptures celebrating their city motto, including this one over one of the main intersections in town. Pretty neat town. The Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company had some great food, and good local beer too.

    We then went north on Montana HW 37 along Lake Koocanusa. What a great ride. While certainly a modern, well maintained highway, the sweeping corners and views were pretty awesome. We were enjoying the riding so much that we forgot to take pictures along this stretch, even though we stopped pretty often to take in the views. For it being a weekend, there was almost no traffic. We didn't pass anyone, and the only time we were passed was when we were stopped. Interestingly, the lake had less traffic. We saw only one boat on the lake during around forty miles of lake side riding. We found a free campsite right next to the Tobacco river just short of Eureka. We had to run into town to purchase some fire wood as the camp had been picked pretty clean. This would turn into a running joke for most of the rest of the trip.

    We were both ecstatic over the day's ride, especially along Lake Koocanusa. Bikes performed pretty good with no problems (que dramatic foreshadowing). Supper was really good too, even though much of it came out of pouches. Amazing how things taste better around a fire. Enjoyed the sound of the river as we had a couple additional beverages as the fire died down.
    #5
  6. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

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    Day 2, July 17: Eureka MT to Kintla Lake CG
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    We got kind of a late start out of camp. It didn't seem like we slept in but hey, we are on vacation.
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    View of the Tobacco River from our camp site. I had not noticed the milk jug until I got home and looked at the pics.

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    One reason we took a while to get going was playing with our load outs. Neither of us was pleased with how the gear was riding. Couldn't have been that we were carrying too d***ed much stuff. Note Brett's fire wood.

    Had a good breakfast at Jax Café in Eureka around 11:30, and ran south on US93 to Whitefish. We didn't really have lunch as our meal timing had been screwed up, though we looked around Whitefish for someplace to stop. It was pretty busy given the height of tourist season on a weekend. We kept going. Brett needed to replenish his whiskey supply, and only the bars in Columbia Falls were open. Ok.

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    Bandit Saloon. Two pints and a fifth for tonight.
    #6
  7. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

    Joined:
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    Day 2 (continued)

    Rode north out of town on the North Fork Rd, which runs along the (amazingly) North Fork of the Flathead River. The road was being worked on, so it was very dusty, made much worse by the endless stream of pickups towing empty raft trailers back the other way. Road and traffic sucked, but the view was pretty good.
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    Lots of fire scars around, on both the Forest and Park side of the river.

    The river was awesome.
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    #7
  8. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

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    Day 2, some more.

    This led into Glacier NP. This entrance to the park doesn't have anyone staffing the entry. The locals told me this is how they usually enter the park.
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    Note that nowhere does it say to NOT park on the bridge.

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    #8
  9. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

    Joined:
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    Day 2: Part Deux (troi?)

    A Columbia Falls resident suggested that we stop in at the Home Ranch Bottoms. Having never heard of it before, it took us three times to make sure that we actually understood what he was saying (his residency at the Bandit Saloon may have impacted his credibility...) Well worth the stop.

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    Seems Reasonable.

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    Who knew that huckleberry ice cream went so well with Moose Drewel?

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    Bar rules I can appreciate!

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    The only time we didn't see a bunch of bikes in front of the place.
    #9
  10. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

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    Day 2 v 2.02

    IMG_0471.png Art imitating life. The two most bad ass bikes at HRB... at that time anyway.
    #10
  11. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

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    Day 2: The Final Chapter

    From HRB, we passed through Polebridge (don't worry, we'll be back) and took the two track into the north part of Glacier. Again, nobody watching the entry. This was a fun stretch. We made much better time than the couple of SUV's going that way too. Fortunately for us as we ended up getting the last available camp site at the CG.

    Kintla Lake is absolutely beautiful. The campground is just past the trailhead to hike into the back country along the national border. Semi-primitive as there are only very basic amenities. There is a hand pump for water, cement outhouses, and most importantly bear proof food and trash containers. The camp host told us there had been a bear sighting less than a half hour prior to our arrival, just across the creek from our site.

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    The views are stunning.

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    The night's accommodations, less Brett's tent behind me.

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    Another night's serenade.

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    I kept going back to the shore. It was spectacular. Even went down and enjoyed the silence and stars amongst the mountains after my late night walk.

    Wonderful day, both the awesome scenery and fun riding. Day 2 was even better than the first!
    #11
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  12. Zubb

    Zubb he went that-a-way...

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    Love it. Keep it coming brother...
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  13. Dessert Storm

    Dessert Storm Dances With Drunks

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    Awesome.! Great photos of a beautiful place. More please.
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  14. ICBMguy

    ICBMguy Misunderstood misanthrope

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    Very nice. My friend and I did a 4 day trip around Western MT this summer as well (a month before you though) and hit at least one of the same stops (the Bandit in Columbia Falls). Got a couple good stories out of that, perhaps my own RR will follow yours!
    #14
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  15. sasho

    sasho Dual Personality

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    Keep it coming!!
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  16. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

    Joined:
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    INTERMISSION (or Call now and we'll DOUBLE your order!!)

    We interrupt this RR to insert another one, sort of.

    I got a wild hare (hair?) and headed up to the Yaak for a weekend ride. Going through the pics from the summer ride, and buying a F800GSA, made me want to ride some of the area again.

    Left Spokane yesterday afternoon after a bunch of errands. As is my norm, kinda lollygagged getting serious about starting. Stopped at All Sport and they had some Klim gear on sale; I picked up some (more?) new pants. The new pants are great. Way better quality than the pair I bought a couple months ago on line. Also, they are longer in the leg so they don't ride up to the top of my boots.

    Nothing really to report on the ride north. Had supper in Bonner's Ferry's best (only I think) Mexican restaurant. Ok, but nothing to write home about. Got into Yaak a little after dark, checked into the Yaak River Lodge. Brett and I stayed there one night this summer. More on this establishment when we resume the real ride report. Had a couple beers at the Dirty Shame watching the Cubs drop game three to the Indians, and hit the sack.

    This morning, it was colder than had been forecast, so I tried waiting a bit for the temps to rise and the fog to lift. Neither seemed to be happening so I geared up and hit the road. Took FS road 68 to Libby. Nice turns, especially the first half coming SE.

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    The main limiting factor was the temp. Didn't want to hit some frozen fog on the road way, so kept my speed down quite a bit. Gear kept me warm (though I did wuss out and turn the grip heaters on. I may be taking longer than necessary at this coffee shop in Libby.

    More to follow.
    #16
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  17. N-Id-Jim

    N-Id-Jim Long timer

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    Hey! You are doing your spontaneous RR! Love the Koocanusa area!
    #17
  18. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

    Joined:
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    Intermission II

    Left Libby and went up MT 37 (sounds familiar I know) but hung a right on FS 763, south to FS 36. 68 and 36 were the two colored roads on the Montana Butler map in NW MT that Brett and I didn't hit in the summer, so wanted to bag those. It was a pretty ride, but only a handful of real fun riding stretches.

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    All near the intersection of 763 & 36.
    #18
  19. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

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    IIA

    The fog lifted here and there going NE on FS 36.

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    It is a different experience this time of year. Even with the fog and clouds, extremely beautiful.
    #19
  20. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

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    II B

    More on FS 36
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    North on US 93 to Eureka for fuel, then west on MT 37 to Lake Kookanusa.
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    My tentative plan had been to ride around the lake, at least from the bridge south and back, but I was getting worried about getting across the pass on FS 92 before dark (for good reason as you'll read when the main RR re-commences. So I skipped the lake and headed towards Yaak.
    #20